After each tenant leaves, Mr. Tomofumi does a thorough check of the apartment. He brings a plastic pail filled with cleaning equipment, a radio-cassette and a mix tape up three flights of stairs. To the tune of “Michelle”, Mr. Tomofumi spreads out the curtains and airs out the mattresses. By the time Elgar’s violin sonata comes on, he has settled into the odor of wet rags quite nicely, dedicating the circular movement of his hands on the window glass to the fluid bops of the music, a crescendo here, spraying lemon-scented liquid along with the cry of fortissimo there. Mr. Tomofumi knows his dance well, and he is nothing but the most excellent of performers.
Mr. Tomofumi sticks his head in the crack between the refrigerator and the wall, he cleans the bottoms of the sofa cushions, he carefully paints over the marks left on the doors. He makes a note of all the damage caused to the five rooms, not that he will ever press the former occupants to pay for repairs. He prefers to think of himself as a forgiving individual. After all, he has been luckier than his other landlord friends; his tenants have never been rowdier than the norm, they have never made the upkeep of his apartment particularly difficult. There is only ever a slight discrepancy in their behavior: they often leave things behind. But even this, as his friends tell him, is hardly odd in the business.
By the time he has flipped the cassette, Mr. Tomofumi has arranged the apartment to his liking, and has piled the remains of his customers in a corner of the living room. He enjoys tackling these possessions, fancies himself a doctor of nostalgia, an interpretor of that which is left behind. Afterwards he relays the finds to the landlord crowd: souvenirs from Europe, self-help books, typewriter keys, classic novels. Mr. Tomofumi sometimes encounters something particularly nice, a sheepskin sweater once, and then a collection of coasters in alternating colors. But the just Mr. Tomofumi never keeps these things, though he might want to. Some part of him still claimed by superstition believes these possessions will never belong to him.
Mr. Tomofumi feels a kind of tenderness for the objects, even the few he does not mention to anyone: full photo albums, explicit magazines that even he, at twenty-three, is embarrassed to flip through, and, today, one hundred and forty packs of playing cards in a purple felt bag.
Now, Mr. Tomofumi holds the felt bag filled with playing cards in his arms. He knows how many there are because he has counted them. Most are aged, but a few are new, and bear the logos of hotels, casinos, strip bars. Mr. Tomofumi feels awkward going through the amassed collection; he shudders visibly upon touching the cards, feels reviled somehow, feels disgusted somehow.
Once, Mr. Tomofumi had found a small altar in a bathroom cabinet. There was a picture of a three-year-old girl, surrounded by candles and small mementos of childhood. On another occasion, he had discovered the diary of a sixteen-year-old boy. Five-hundred pages, Mr. Tomofumi remembers, because he had counted them, filled with photographs and poetry, depictions of girls to love, poor doodles of the backs of heads, on the last page: should I tell you now, what’s really brutal?
Mr. Tomofumi thinks back to the last lease he had signed. It is difficult for him to recall clients, this is how little they mean to him. Mr. Tomofumi does not like having any kind of relationship with previous, current or future tenants. He appears to them thrice: with lease papers once, monthly afterwards for rent, and one last time to clean the apartment. He does, however, vaguely remember the pair who had been his last occupants. Boy-girl, in the lanky style of the young. Mr. Tomofumi actually thinks that, “lanky style of the young”, even though he also remembers that the boy had been older than him. This is because Mr. Tomofumi looks out at the world as Mr. Tomofumi, never as Sebastian.
Mr. Tomofumi goes about the house and gathers up his equipment, stacking it in the pail and shutting off the music before returning to the matter of the cards. His is a little hungry, but for now he ignores it. Mr. Tomofumi does not allow external forces other than gravity in his apartment or in his body. He thinks about throwing the cards away or donating them to the Salvation Army, but he does neither of those things. He calls his roommate and asks him to read aloud the new address of the boy-girl from a file in his bedroom. He writes it down on the back of a magazine. Then he slings the felt bag of cards over his shoulder, gripping the pail and radio-cassette in both hands, and locks the door behind him.